With promising results from several recent vaccine studies, it’s possible to envision an end to the coronavirus pandemic. One question being bantered around in business and scientific communities is how will having a vaccine impact the future of COVID-19 testing?
Here’s the backstory.
COVID-19 created a massive growth surge in industries supporting the fight against the coronavirus, from PPE and disinfectants to cleaning services and medical testing.
For COVID-19 testing in particular, the impact has been felt by medical supply manufacturers like Puritan as well as labs, testing centers, and even companies involved in behind-the-scenes efforts such as logistics and data.
How will the vaccine impact the demand for testing and related products and services? While there are no clear-cut answers, here’s what we’re hearing:
Testing will likely be needed into the foreseeable future.
While vaccine manufacturers are moving forward as swiftly as safely possible, vaccinating all those who need it will take many months and possibly years. This means that significant portions of the population awaiting vaccines will continue to be susceptible and have an ongoing need for testing.
According to one recent report, at least 30 million tests are currently needed each week to diagnose COVID-19. In addition, up to 14 million tests per day are required to screen asymptomatic individuals, such as college students.
Once vaccines are widely available, some people may elect not to get vaccinated. Sick patients with fevers will still be asking their doctors whether they have the flu, COVID or something else. It’s expected that for many reasons, demand for COVID-19 testing will continue to run high, perhaps outpacing other medical testing categories for years.
Testing needs may shift.
While a vaccine may reduce the need for antigen testing, it could create high demand for antibody testing. Testing may be needed to access how long immunity lasts for both those receiving the vaccine or who have had the disease.
As the need for testing among the vaccinated population decreases, testing needs may become more focused on protecting those awaiting immunity. For example, testing efforts may shift to support broader-scale contact tracing efforts to help keep the economy and schools open while widespread vaccination is taking place.
Worldwide vaccination is even further away.
While the challenges are great for vaccinating the U.S. population, tamping down the virus worldwide is even more challenging. Billions of doses will be needed, and logistics have yet to be fully defined. As long as there are people susceptible to COVID-19, there will continue to be an ongoing need for diagnostic testing.
Consumer may drive demand for testing.
As testing becomes faster, more accessible and more reliable, it’s feasible to imagine that people will choose to purchase testing as a way to make decisions in their everyday lives, whether it’s knowing you can gather safely if everyone has had a negative test or a way to avoid the hassles of quarantining after travel.
Industries may turn to testing during recovery.
The travel industry has been particularly hard hit due to COVID-19. Testing could potentially help with recovery. One consumer barrier to air travel is the potential need to quarantine on arrival or return. Testing could decrease or even eliminate the need for quarantine, potentially helping reopen the skies for both corporate and leisure travel.
An article about potential testing plans at London’s Heathrow airport indicates that “testing must go hand-in-had with inoculation if international travel is to return to meaningful levels,” according to Heathrow airport CEO John Holiday-Kaye during a recent interview.
While the future of testing is still to be defined, there’s enough evidence to suggest that COVID-19 testing will be with us in some form for years to come.